Music Festivals Remain a Man's, Man's, Man's World

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Photo by Jim Bricker
The Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard
As we round out the end of the week, all of the festival hangovers from the full-blown fuckery at FPSF have subsided and we're all a bit less foggy, it's time to look back at the festival in a slightly different light. Let's put aside the rants about overpriced water and gripe about something way more important -- let's talk about chicks, man.

I suppose I should clarify. As a chick, I will not be griping about the chicks at the festival, or their choice of attire, or any of the other random catty topic I'd normally be touching upon. What I'm talking about in this here blog post is how blatantly obvious it is that most festivals snub female artists, even as they book them into their lineups on a more regular basis.

Good luck finding more than a scant few female musicians headlining this year's major music festivals. Bjork is at Bonnaroo, making her the only girl to headline the festival over its four days. ACL has not thrown a single female headliner into its mix this year, and Coachella didn't buy into the idea of girls being able to hang with the big boys either. In fact, the desert fest only had an abysmal ten percent of female-fronted acts across its entire lineup, because, well, cool.

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Photo by Marc Brubaker
This is not a dig at FPSF, either. Honestly, Houston's homegrown, five-year-old music festival is a rad thing to have around. But given that this is Houston, and we just came off of a sweaty-ass FPSF weekend, it's going to serve as my example here. In years past, FPSF has taken its fair share of flack over lineups that have been light on women in any form, and it appears that they've worked to improve that, with more female artists in the 2013 lineup than ever.

But it's not just the quantity of female performers, but the type of female performer, booked at FPSF and other big festivals, that makes me wonder if the guys booking these dude-centric events still just don't get it. It's not enough to just throw some females on your lineup to quell the whining about equality and call it a day.

Where are all the female badasses on these lineups? Sure, this year's FPSF had some chicks, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that these artists were booked less for their musical quality and more for the novelty aspect. I don't care for plenty of male artists who played at FPSF, but I still feel they were booked on their musical validity. The women? Not so much.

Take Kitty Pryde, for instance. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of her music, but that's neither here nor there. Kitty Pryde has little to no musical ability, and she's literally a product of social media; a flavor of the week, if you will. She's hardly an established artist, but nevertheless was chosen to help represent FPSF's female talent.

Perhaps it's because she's got this strange sexuality that is both alluring to men and appalling to women. She meows, flits, and flirts her way through her lyrics to avoid having to put any real effort into making music. It's ridiculous, and it seems to be that she was on that lineup merely because some dudes found her meowing and torn-tights schtick to be intriguing and assumed other dudes would too.

Cat Power is another example of how there was a wide margin between the established male artists booked this year and the female acts. I'm not, by any means, negating the fact that Chan Marshall has got some legit musical prowess, but let's be honest here. Part of the reason for watching her is to see if she fell back into that whole messy meltdown mode.

She's got the ability, to be sure, but has become more of a novelty than anything else thanks to her antics. And she is a recognizable name, in part, because she might throw a tantrum. Oh good. Let's go watch the chick have a meltdown, 'cause it's entertaining and somewhat comfortable to watch a woman throw a fit. We like it when they fit our preconceived notions.


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7 comments
pushingfeminismback
pushingfeminismback

sounds like someone has a crush on kitty considering how many times she was mentioned.

marinara
marinara

Yawn. So, the news weekly that makes the lion share of its revenue off of exploiting women through human trafficking and prostitution is taking a jab at the independent local publication that produces a music festival? Yeah, okay.

You also failed to mention Jenny Lewis who shares the spotlight with Ben Gibbard for headliner Postal Service, Kim Schifino from Matt & Kim, the females in other big bands such as Gogol Bordello, Octopus Project and Of Monsters and Men, and the other great local female performers like Kam from the Suffers, The Sour Notes, UZOY, Emily Bell, Born Again Virgins, Midnight Norma Lane, and of course the beautiful Chase Hamblin. Your critisms of other female headliners as being too beautiful or sexy is duplicitous, as making any judgement on their billing as a result of their physical aesthetic as opposed to musical self is plain ridiculous. That's like saying Iggy Pop played because he's ripped, and not because he's the godfather of punk rock.

rynocerous
rynocerous

Grace Potter was chosen because of her looks and not her talent?  Are you freaking kidding me?  She is a staple in the festival scene.  She has opened for and played with the Allman Brothers as well as Steve Winwood.  I find your position on her amusing, as you dismiss her as a pretty face, when she was actually one of the more talented artists on the bill.  Who is doing women a disservice now?

lisaitsyourbday
lisaitsyourbday

UZOY is a legitimate female rapper who played the same stage as Kitty Pride. The women were there. They may not have been the headliners,but they were definitely there. Ume,Emily Bell, and The Suffers are all no gimmick,female fronted acts. Please get over the Kitty Pryde thing. She'll be gone soon enough.

captainpunch
captainpunch

Pretty unnecessary post. Of the 17 acts I saw at FPSF, 5 were either fronted or co-fronted by women (shakes, head/heart, postal service, ume, monsters/men), which is significantly more than the last few years.

Since you weren't actually in crowd, you should be informed that Alabama shakes did not have the same draw as Bassnectar. I was in about the same spot for both acts (the volleyball court platform). For the Shakes I got to the performance during Hold On and made my way up to a spot where I had plenty of room to myself. For Bassnectar I was crammed in a one square foot box from before TVOTR even ended their set.

Hating on Kitty Pryde just because you think her music is garbage (I agree) doesn't validate your point that she was only selected for the line up to boost female performer numbers. She was booked because her music is (somehow) popular amongst a demographic that would not be interested in seeing TV on the Radio or Grace Potter. I would argue that 2 Chainz is in the same 'novelty act' category as Kitty Pryde. Very few critics would defend him as a talented rapper, but his music has an appeal and is fun. Some people find Kitty Pryde's music fun/ relevant to their lives as well.

I'm not sure how you think that the indie rock scene that FPSF tends to cater doesn't have more male performers than female. I can think of very few female fronted bands that have the perfectly sized fan base to make them affordable and popular enough to headline FPSF. Maybe YYYs or Santigold. Based on my observations, I'd say most women fronted acts are either superstar level (Kesha, Beyonce etc) or mid level (beach house, cults, sleigh bells, cat power). Though I must admit I have been noticing a growth in female performers over the last few years. Girl fronted opening bands are becoming more and more common and maybe in the next few years one of them will become popular enough to start headlining festivals. And while it would be nice to get Azealia Banks, or Tegan and Sara for next year's fest, the fact is that there are very few all-female acts (and even fewer talented female rappers) and it seems silly to me to discredit a woman as a performer because she plays with men.

While some people may have seen Cat Power hoping for a meltdown, the same could be said about a number of male performers who have been known to have on-stage incidents in the past (Wavves, Ariel Pink, and Axl Rose come to mind). Dismissing Grace Potter's talent because 'she's gorgeous' is pretty ridiculous and completely goes against your overarching argument for the piece. I think encouraging acts like Grace and Kitty Pryde would do more for boosting the number of female performers. Who knows, someone in the crowd may have heard her and thought "I can do better".

Also, as a side note, I seriously doubt the organizers of any festival are counting the numbers of female performers while making the line-ups and schedules. The acts are likely picked on what you describe as "musical quality" and "validity". From what I can tell, no acts were placed on the lineup or in a less prominent slot because they had a girl singing the words. Basically, you went out on a limb for this article and the tree branch broke.

dermgerm
dermgerm topcommenter

That was a legitimate article. O.O 

I'm feeling gipped on the women entertainment.

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